"The internet itself will be a powerful resource in widening access to education, information and opportunity. So awareness of e-safety is now a necessity if we are to avoid a digital divide between those who are confident internet users and those who are not."
Julia Taylor, foreword to NIACE e-safety digital learning guides
We all recognise the opportunities and benefits in which digital technologies can enhance teaching, learning and research. Digital technology has opened up new ways in which people can explore and engage with the world around them. However, we have to be aware of the potential challenges and risks associated with the technology and support people to identify and manage those risks.
"e-safety is about safe and responsible practice with technology and the sensible management of risks presented by the digital world."
There is a need to educate ourselves and others about the benefits and risks of using technology and to provide awareness, skills and safeguards to enable users to take responsibility for their own and others’ online experience.
The Jisc definition quoted above can be used as a starting point for learning about a vital part of living in a digital society. Empowering people to take responsibility and be able to safeguard themselves and their personal information is something that needs to be developed and maintained throughout their life.
This guide explores the strategic and practical challenges associated with living in this ever-connected world. It sets a framework for empowering staff within institutions to meet these challenges and highlights the importance of e-safety provision in identifying, planning and acting on possible risks. It encourages the embedding of safe practices across all aspects of the organisation and in cultivating responsible behaviours.
Why is e-safety important?
The rate of technology growth and the ubiquity of the internet has impacted upon all aspects of society, including education and the wealth of resources available to students and staff. Statistics from Ofcom show that 93% of all 16-24 year olds used the internet in 2012, with studies showing the diversification of technology as the use of tablet devices has risen to 42%. Smartphone ownership rose to 54% among adults in 2012, with the fastest growth among young people aged 16-24 (86%).
Ofcom statistics also show that 52% of people have concerns about what is on the internet, with concerns ranging from inappropriate content to fraud and identity theft.
Research from Safer Internet Day, a one-day campaign that highlights the importance of acting online responsibly, showed that while 1 in 10 had heard of the campaign, 56% of children, 37% of teenagers and 42% of adults said they would talk to someone in their family about using the internet safely after finding out about Safer Internet Day.
How does all this link together? Well whilst the benefits of using the internet are numerous and have changed the way we work, live and communicate, it is important to raise awareness of the risks and enable people to manage them.
e-safety isn’t just about policy, it’s about putting it into action. The implications of unsafe behaviour online is huge to both the individual and the organisation and an inclusive approach involving students and staff at all levels is vital.
A framework for e-safety
Becta, formerly the agency promoting ICT in schools, developed a PIES model for approaching safeguarding within education. The PIES model encompasses:
- Policies and practices (P)
- Infrastructure and technology (I)
- Education and training (E)
- Standards and inspection (S)
The model describes e-safety as a combination of policies, secure technology infrastructure, education and training, all underpinned by standards and inspection and this guide will touch and expand on these areas.